Stargazers are buzzing about a bright new comet. The ball of dust and ice is formally named C/2023 P1, but is also called Comet Nishimura, after the Japanese photographer who first spotted it.
It will be visible for the next few mornings, just before sunrise, when it will glow green low on the horizon.
What is a comet?
Comets are frozen leftovers from the formation of the solar system composed of dust, rock, and ice. They range from a few miles to tens of miles wide, but as they orbit closer to the Sun, they heat up and spew gases and dust into a glowing head that can be larger than a planet. This material forms a tail that stretches millions of miles.
How was the comet discovered?
Mr. Nishimura captured the comet on Aug. 12 while imaging the sky before sunrise with a digital camera — the third comet he has discovered. He reported the sighting to the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, which alerted astronomers around the world.
How can I see the comet?
The best time to catch Comet Nishimura is over the coming mornings. Its brightness will peak over the weekend and into Monday’s sunrise, rivaling that of the North Star. You can use binoculars or a telescope for an even better view.
To see Comet Nishimura, first go to a location where you can clearly see the eastern horizon, without any trees or other barriers in the way. Over the ocean, atop a high-rise building or on a cliff-top are great sites.
To find the comet in the sky, set up shop about an hour and a half before sunrise, and look for a small streak to the lower left of Venus, a bright orb in the east just above the horizon. Another way to track down the comet is to look to the left of Regulus, a bright star in the constellation Leo.
After Sept. 11, Comet Nishimura will dip below the horizon and be more difficult to find in the evening sky because of the brightness of the sunset.